Tag Archives: 1890s Paintings

Van Gogh – Wheatfield with Crows

29 Jul

”The sadness will last forever.”

1890. Wheatfield with Crows is a July 1890 painting by Vincent van Gogh

On 29th July 1890, at the peak of summer, van Gogh had finally succumbed to the extreme sadness that had tortured him for the most of his life. Two days earlier van Gogh shot himself and the untreated wound infection proved to be his undoing.

Months prior to his death were, at the same time, the saddest and the most creative days of his life. A year prior to his death, van Gogh stayed at the asylum at Saint-Remy where he was constantly getting bored and this led to a frustration. Despite his numerous nervous breakdowns, his time there proved to be the most productive time of his entire life having painted the most of his paintings two years before his death. Shortly before leaving Saint Remy, van Gogh expressed how depressed he felt “The surroundings here are beginning to weigh me down more than I can say… I need some air, I feel overwhelmed by boredom and grief.”

After returning to Auvers, his health was still fragile, however, by 25th May 1890. he had recovered, writing to his brother Theo “I can do nothing about my illness. I am suffering a little just now — the thing is that after that long seclusion the days seem like weeks to me.” His creativity flourished again and, quickly reaching out for brushes and canvases, he painted numerous landscapes, exploring the ‘wheat’ theme he considered to be interesting. His improvement continued throughout June, the nightmares vanished and he seemed to be less depressive, looking brightly at the future, actually. His desires to paint were tremendous and his creativity, flair and ideas thrived. In a letter he informed his brother about his painting ideas “I would like to paint some portraits against a very vivid yet tranquil background. There are the greens of a different quality, but of the same value, so as to form a whole of green tones, which by its vibration will make you think of the gentle rustle of the ears swaying in the breeze: it is not at all easy as a colour scheme.”

1890. Wheatfields at Auvers under Clouded Sky - Van Gogh, July1890. Wheatfield at Auvers under Clouded Sky, painted in July

“What am I in the eyes of most people — a nonentity, an eccentric, or an unpleasant person — somebody who has no position in society and will never have; in short, the lowest of the low. All right, then — even if that were absolutely true, then I should one day like to show by my work what such an eccentric, such a nobody, has in his heart. That is my ambition, based less on resentment than on love in spite of everything, based more on a feeling of serenity than on passion. Though I am often in the depths of misery, there is still calmness, pure harmony and music inside me. I see paintings or drawings in the poorest cottages, in the dirtiest corners. And my mind is driven towards these things with an irresistible momentum.”

cropped-1890-wheatfield-under-thunderclouds-van-gogh-painted-in-july.jpg1890. Wheatfield Under Thunderclouds, painted in July

Painting Wheatfield with Crows is one of van Gogh’s last works (possibly the very last painting). The sky appears so vivid and yet so tranquil, lonely and sad at the same time; that’s something in common with all of van Gogh’s paintings, no matter what colour he uses, whether it’s a vivid or dark shade, he manages to paint in a way that everything takes a sad tone. This painting is a dramatic landscape out of which emerges almost horrifying despair, sadness and alienation. He writes to his brother ‘I did not have to go out of my way very much in order to try to express sadness and extreme loneliness.’ However, he added ‘I’m fairly sure that these canvases will tell you what I cannot say in words, that is, how healthy and invigorating I find the countryside.’ 

Van Gogh felt that he succeeded in expressing his extreme loneliness (de la solitude extrême). Concerning the painting, he also expressed that he feels like a bird in a cage, perhaps trapped in the agony of his own mind. Since he incorporated the crows in his painting they create an all together symbol of the constraint he felt; he felt constrained by his surrounding and powerless regarding his art; he created with such flair and lived with even greater passion, yet nobody ever understood him or his paintings. Crows are a symbol of death and rebirth, or of resurrection, but on this painting they express both his enormous sorrow and sense of his life coming to an end. He wrote to Theo on 2th July 1890. “I myself am also trying to do as well as I can, but I will not conceal from you that I hardly dare count on always being in good health. And if my disease returns, you would forgive me. I still love art and life very much…” Later, on 10th July he writes in despairing tone ”And the prospect grows darker, I see no happy future at all.”

1890. Undergrowth with Two Figures - van Gogh, June1890. Undergrowth with Two Figures, painted in June

“I put my heart and soul into my work, and I have lost my mind in the process.”

“It is good to love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is well done.”

“It is looking at things for a long time that ripens you and gives you a deeper meaning.”

1890. Wheat Fields after the Rain (The Plain of Auvers)- van Gogh1890. Wheat Field after the Rain, painted in July

Vincent van Gogh was a man of passion greater than life, so devoted to his art until the very end; end of the life burdened with sorrows, illnesses, loneliness and a lack of understanding; life of extremes… His quote ‘I’d rather die of passion than of boredom’ is his best testimony. His art was the purpose of his life, and the cause of his eventual collapse. Today Van Gogh is considered one of the greatest artists and his work influenced the 20th century Modernists, but, at the time of his death his work was known to only a handful of people. Van Gogh wanted to be remembered as a ‘man who feels deeply, that man who feels keenly’ and he expressed his feelings; his bleeding agony and struggles in his art. His paintings are now appreciated for their rough beauty, bold colours and their brutally honest emotional facet.

Vincent van Gogh died on the 29th July 1890, in the summertime, aged just thirty seven. As he was lying on his death bed, this man, at the peak of his creativity, at the peak of his artistic life and already facing the end of it; end of the life already rife with sad events, whispered his last words to Theo, his brother and a faithful companion to the end, ‘La Tristesse Durera’ meaning ‘The sadness will last forever.’  At the peak of summer Van Gogh had finally succumbed to the sadness.

 

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Van Gogh’s Wheatfield

19 Jul

Ever since I’ve written about van Gogh’s paintings of starry skies, his other paintings greatly caught my attention. However, this one, called Wheatfield Under Thunderclouds, appeared particularly interesting to me.

1890. Wheatfield Under Thunderclouds - van Gogh, painted in July

This painting, painted in July 1890. (the very same month Vincent van Gogh died), is a part of his wheatfield series painted on double-square canvases. Painted with thick, relief coat, dark and cloudy sky seems threatening and suggests the upcoming sorrow; no black crows here but the lonely landscape does give indication of the depressing state van Gogh was engulfed in those days. With simple setting of the painting, which features only a wheatfield and the sky; no houses, trees or a river there, van Gogh tried to express the loneliness, sadness and alienation he felt at the time.

A letter of around 10. July 1890. says: “There – once back here I set to work again – the brush however almost falling from my hands and – knowing clearly what I wanted I’ve painted another three large canvases since then. They’re immense stretches of wheatfields under turbulent skies, and I made a point of trying to express sadness, extreme loneliness …”

The simplicity of the painting only added depth to it: wilderness with a wheatfield; so lonely and so alone, solitary as long as the view stretches; from the tiny red flowers that grow in the near to the line where the field is mingled with the troubled sky; no landscape could possibly express loneliness better than this, on the first sight, ordinary wheatfield. Just looking at this painting is so inspirational to me; give me such delight and fires my imagination. Also, van Gogh’s emphasis on brush strokes is very appealing to me.

Van Gogh’s Starry Nights

12 Jul

When I first saw the painting Starry Night Over the Rhone by Vincent van Gogh, I thought it was the most beautiful thing I ever saw; it was on the last New Year’s Eve and I remember being captivated by the magical beauty that allures from the indigo sky sprinkled with golden stars; night in the eyes of van Gogh. Now it is clear to me that that thought was rather impulsive, but still, this painting kept haunting me and here I am, seven month later, thinking of it and writing of it.

1888. Starry Night Over the Rhone - van gogh1888. Starry Night Over the Rhone.

This painting, painted in September 1888, shows van Gogh’s interest in nocturnal. Painting at night, however, proved to be a challenge for him, and he put emphasis on capturing the reflections of the gas lamp on the glimmering blue water of the Rhone. Painting this in only two colours; blue and yellow, van Gogh managed to evoke the river waves mingled with the golden light of the street lamps by the Rhone in Arles. Vibrancy and heavy brush strokes are absolutely alluring and magical.

It’s amazing how detailed he is with a brush and what effect he created using only two colours, yet carefully blending them to achieve the enchanting effect of glimmering light and the shadows on the Rhone. Depicting colours was extremely important to him and, in letters to his brother Theo, he used to describe objects in his painting in terms of colours. When depicting day scenes, he used earthy tones, but when painting the nighttime landscapes he used blues which he blended in such a refined way with thick, but small brush strokes. Van Gogh explored the colours and its opportunities in a rather different way than other painters of the time; he focused on one colour and how to get the most shades out of it whilst other Post-Impressionists such as Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Gauguin explored colours by using as many of them as they could.

1889. The Starry Night - van gogh1890. The Starry Night

Nocturnal atmosphere with its night sky and changing effect of light at night proved to be inspirational for van Gogh, as he painted Cafe Terrace at Night, a few weeks earlier and later another beautiful painting called The Starry Night. Painting The Church at Auvers, painted in June 1890. is also a very good example of van Gogh’s night scenes. The later painting, shown above, is a bit more playful than the previous one that I’ve shown you, and, to me, maybe even more beautiful.

Van Gogh painted The Starry Night in June 1889. when he was staying in a sanatorium in a small town Saint-Remy-de-Provence located in the south of France. The painting depicts the view from his room, and, although it depicts a night scene, it was painted during the day from a memory. What appeals me the most about this painting is the playfulness of the stars; the way they dance in their golden apparel, drawn to the Moon, shining brightly at a small town. The sky is painted in van Gogh’s characteristic thick, relief brush strokes, whilst the vividness and sparkle of the stars is depicted with dashed lines and in that way it literary seems the sky is moving and the stars are actually dancing.

However, van Gogh was not satisfied with the painting, writing his brother Theo ‘The first four canvases are studies without the effect of a whole that the others have . . . The olives with white clouds and background of mountains, also the moonrise and the night effect, these are exaggerations from the point of view of arrangement, their lines are warped as that of old wood.’ Van Gogh was very shy and insecure regarding his work, as were many artists. Little he knew that a hundred years later people will be admiring and studying his art. In an episode of Doctor Who, the doctor traveled to past and met, well, who other than van Gogh and after spending some time with him, the doctor took him to present day gallery. After van Gogh saw his paintings and the popularity of them, tears of joy came down his cheek. I confess it made me cry from happiness too.

1888. Cafe Terrace at Night -van Gogh

1888. Cafe Terrace at Night

Vincent van Gogh entered the asylum at Saint-Remy in May 1889. Despite his numerous nervous breakdowns, his time there proved to be the most productive time of his entire life having painted the most of his paintings two years before his death. Painting The Starry Night is a result of his fascination with the nocturnal and also of his observation of the beautiful landscapes surrounding the asylum.

In early 1890. van Gogh suffered yet another crisis, his life now consisting of fits of despair and hallucination during which he could not work and long, clear and productive months between them in which he could and did paint, driven by extreme visionary ecstasy. One of his last paintings, possibly the very last, Wheatfield with crows, painted the same month he died, is a dramatic landscape that depicts dark, cloudy and troubled sky filled with crows over a wheatfield. The painting shows a sense of isolation, uncertainty, sorrow and a sense of his life coming to an end. Van Gogh was falling deeper and deeper in his despair and misery, writing to his brother about the later painting ‘I did not have to go out of my way very much in order to try to express sadness and extreme loneliness.’ However, he added ‘I’m fairly sure that these canvases will tell you what I cannot say in words, that is, how healthy and invigorating I find the countryside.’

1890. Wheatfield with Crows is a July 1890 painting by Vincent van Gogh1890. Wheatfield with Crows

On July 27th 1890. van Gogh shoot himself and died due to an untreated infection less than two days later. As he was lying on his death bed, this man, at the peak of his creativity, at the peak of his artistic life and already facing the end of it; end of the life already rife with sad events, whispered his last words to Theo, his brother and a faithful companion to the end, ‘La Tristesse Durera’ meaning ‘The sadness will last forever.’  At the peak of summer Van Gogh had finally succumbed to the sadness.

Theo’s health deteriorated in the months following Vincent’s death and in January 1891. he died, succumbing to the desperate sadness of reality, finally joining his beloved brother.